Washington Nationals' closer Rafael Soriano is away from the team for the birth of his son, so with the St. Louis Cardinals in town for the first time since they beat the Nats in last October's NLDS, the defending NL East Champions will turn to 25-year-old reliever Drew Storen if they need someone to close out tonight's game with the Cards. Storen, of course, was on the mound in Game 5 of the Division Series last Fall when the Cardinals completed an improbable late-game comeback to take the finale of the five-game series and advance to the League Championship series. Since then, the Nationals have added the 33-year-old Soriano to the pen, though Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was clear that the signing was a matter of strengthening a strength rather than a reaction to any one inning last season.
Soriano has saved six games this season, posting a 4.50 ERA, a 5.03 FIP, two walks (2.25 BB/9) and eight Ks (9.00 K/9) in 8.0 innings pitched. Storen, who had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow before the 2012 season and returned late to reclaim the ninth-inning role, has struggled to start the season, putting up a 7.11 ERA, 5.09 FIP, one walk (1.42 BB/9) and 11 Ks (11.37 K/9) in six games and 6.1 IP so far this season. Storen has one blown save this year, and in his last two outings he's allowed a combined six hits and five runs, four earned, and two home runs in outings against the Braves and Mets.
The Nationals will have to give Storen a lead to save, of course. Taking the mound at the start of tonight's game will be right-hander Dan Haren, a former Cardinals' '01 2nd Round pick, who is (4-0) against the team that drafted him with a 3.65 ERA, 4 home runs (0.97 HR/9) and eight BB (1.95 BB/9) allowed and 39 Ks (9.49 K/9) collected in five starts and 37.0 IP against St. Louis over the course of his career.
Here's the Nats' lineup for the first game of three against the Cards in D.C.:
#Nationals lineup vs. STL: Span 8, Werth 9, Harper 7, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Rendon 5, Espinosa 4, Suzuki 2, Haren 1.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) April 22, 2013
Game Time 7:05 pm EST tonight from Nationals Park.
• Other reports from today's pregame meeting with Nats' skipper Davey Johnson:
Davey doesn't see Rendon staying when Zimmerman returns. "I don't care if he hits .900, there's no way he beating out Ryan Zimmerman."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 22, 2013
Davey said he feels Dan Haren is too worried about velocity on his fastball. Let's see if Haren dials it back a couple MPH tonight.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) April 22, 2013